Washington National Cathedral has been the site of national services of great mourning and great celebration since its first service on the grounds in 1898.

National Services

  • 1898

    President William McKinley attends the first services held on the Cathedral grounds, to dedicate  the Peace Cross to mark the end of the Spanish-American War.

  • 1934

    “Supplication for the Peace of the World” service held at the Cathedral.

  • 1941-1945

    Special interfaith services were held throughout the year at the Cathedral “On Behalf of a United People in Time of National Emergency.”

  • February 1952

    Memorial service for King George VI.

  • March 1968

    The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., preaches his last sermon during a Sunday service at the Cathedral.

  • January 1973

    The Cathedral hosts a service for peace in Vietnam held, followed by a candlelight procession of some 15,000 people to the White House. Three weeks later, Leonard Bernstein conducted the National Symphony in Haydn’s Mass in Time of War at the Cathedral; Nearly 5,000 people packed the Cathedral while an estimated 15,000 stood outside in the rain.

  • November 1979

    The Cathedral hosts a service for the Iranian hostages. In January 1981, the Cathedral held a service of Thanksgiving for their release.

  • December 1987

    On the eve of the Reagan-Gorbachev summit, American and Russian church leaders gathered at the Cathedral for a four-day prayer vigil.

  • September 1990

    President George H.W. Bush leads thousands of spectators as workers place the final stone on the Cathedral, 83 years to the day after construction began.

  • January 1991

    The Cathedral hosted an interfaith peace service and candlelight march to the White House for peace in Iraq.

  • October 1995

    Archbishop Desmond Tutu of Capetown celebrated the birth of democracy in South Africa at a Cathedral service.

  • September 1998

    President Bill Clinton led a memorial service for the victims of the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

  • September 2001

    President George W. Bush and evangelist Billy Graham lead an interfaith service following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

  • January 2003

    More than 3,000 people attended a service for peace on eve of the second Iraq war.

  • February 2003

    The Cathedral hosted a memorial service for the members of the Space Shuttle Columbia.

  • September 2003

    His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, spoke at the Cathedral.

  • May 2004

    Former President George H.W. Bush headlines a service celebrating the dedication of the World War II memorial.

  • September 2005

    The Cathedral hosted “A National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for the Victims of Hurricane Katrina.”

  • January 2010

    The Cathedral hosted “Strength Through Unity,” a service for the victims, families, and survivors of the earthquake in Haiti.

  • April 2010

    Funeral services were held for Dorothy Irene Height, civil rights leader and Chair Emerita of the National Council of Negro Women.

  • September 2011

    After the 2011 earthquake closed the Cathedral, the “Concert for Hope” to mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks was moved to the Kennedy Center.

  • September 2012

    Funeral service was held for astronaut Neil Armstrong, first person to walk on the moon.

  • December 2012

    The Cathedral hosted a memorial service for the victims of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., the first of several Cathedral events devoted to ending gun violence.

  • June 2013

    The Cathedral bells peal in celebration of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling recognizing same-sex marriage.

  • December 2013

    The Cathedral hosted a memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela.

  • November 2014

    For the first time, the Cathedral opens its doors to Muslim Friday prayers.